5 Behaviors to Build a Cohesive Team


Creating a team that works well together starts with one thing, says Phil Harwood, CEO and managing partner of Pro-Motion Consulting. And that one thing is trust. “Trust is the foundation — if we don’t have trust, we can’t build on anything,” he says. Starting with this all-important element, here are five behaviors that Harwood says will help you build a cohesive, successful team in the green industry.

1. Build trust

As Harwood notes, trust is where it all begins. If you have an absence of trust, many destructive behaviors can follow, such as a refusal to acknowledge one another, or an unwillingness to apologize. Harwood says colleagues will be more guarded and deceptive, and they will fail to ask their team for input.

“When someone is combative about other people’s ideas, then you’ll be less likely to offer ideas and just remain silent rather than risk getting shut down,” he says.

The hard part about building trust is that just one member of a team can spread the disease to the rest of the team. If one person spreads the feeling of distrust, there can be the tendency to conceal weaknesses or mistakes, hesitate to help or provide feedback and fail to help outside of someone’s responsibilities. People may also jump to conclusions about the intent of others and hold grudges — all of which are highly damaging to a team.

“A lot of people won’t admit they need help because they don’t want to seem vulnerable, but trusting the team makes it easier to ask for help and know you won’t appear weak to others,” Harwood says.

One way to build trust, he suggests, is to help the team learn more about personal histories. Ask questions such as:

  • Where did you grow up?
  • How many siblings do you have?
  • What was an important challenge you faced as a kid?

According to Harwood, this background information can provide insight to how different people on your team work.

2. Allow conflict

We all know people on our team who are “people pleasers” – they don’t want to rock the boat or voice their opinions too strongly. Harwood says when team members hold back opinions, or leaders won’t ask for opinions, then we often avoid getting into the real issues and only keep discussions at the surface.

“Debates are OK – it serves the team to promote discussion,” he says.

Meetings that go around and around the root of the problem can seem pointless. But if the team fears conflicts, because they’re afraid of personal attacks or just want to ignore controversial topics, then you won’t tap into all the perspectives on the team.

As Harwood says, “Whenever there’s a meeting after the meeting, that’s bad.” In other words, if part of the team huddles to discuss items that weren’t brought up at the meeting, or to complain about a subject, then they were probably too afraid to bring it up in front of the whole group, which means honesty and a different perspective are lost.

Harwood says that while you can’t keep going around and around about a controversial issue, it’s important to let everyone say their piece. But then the decision-maker needs to make a decision and move on.

He notes that the best place for a team to be is at constructive discussion without stepping over the line too much into destructive. It’s OK to step over that line sometimes, Harwood says, and then recover, because you’ll build a stronger, more honest team if you have the courage to be on that line.

3. Foster commitment

The first two behaviors — trust and allowing controversial discussions — tie into your team’s ability to buy in to what the company stands for, and what it’s working toward. If your team members have a lack of commitment, Harwood says, discussions will end without clear steps, and meetings will produce a lack of confidence.

“If people don’t weigh in on a decision, they won’t buy in,” he says.

This does not mean that the whole team has to agree, he notes. Individual members just want to feel that they have been heard in order to commit to the plan.

When the team fails to commit, it can create ambiguity, missed opportunities, a lack of confidence, and a waste of time when having to go back and discuss things over and over.

“When the team commits to a project, and they have clarity in their priorities, they know what they need to be working on,” Harwood says.

4. Promote accountability

You may not hear this often, but Harwood says, “Peer pressure on a team is the best thing we’ve got going.”

In other words, teams need to hold one another accountable. Teams that work best with one another rarely have to go to the leader, he says. Instead they go to each other and say “we were counting on you for this.” While the leader does have to show that he or she will hold people accountable, it can sometimes be more painful to hear from peers that you’re not holding up your end of bargain. And it doesn’t always have to be a negative — it can help the team member who is falling down on his or her responsibilities grow from gaining feedback.

Harwood says if you avoid accountability, resentment will follow and it will not only encourage mediocrity on the team, but it also puts all the pressure on the leader.

The best way to work it out is for the leader to let the team iron out the issues. Then the team will admit when they dropped the ball and define the results they’re looking for moving forward.

“There needs to be clear goals — a commitment — then keep accountable to those goals,” he says.

5. Focus on results

Harwood puts this behavior bluntly yet honestly: “If teams aren’t focused on results, they’re focused on themselves, and unwilling to make sacrifices for the team.”

All of the behaviors here — trust, allowing difficult conversations, fostering commitment and promoting accountability — ultimately should lead to results, and it is this end game that should fuel the team.

Teams that focus on achieving collective results will have more drive to work together, Harwood says. When collective success is valued more than individual success, you’ll attain achievement-oriented behavior, he adds. Therefore, you’ll always benefit from individuals who put the team first.

Understand Your Team

During a presentation at GIE+EXPO last year, Phil Harwood of Pro-Motion Consulting explained how the DISC Model can help you get to know your team. He said this method, “can help you determine where people will fall or where they belong on your team.” It can also help you figure out the kind of people you want to hire.

This behavior assessment tool was developed in the 1920s by William Moulton Marston, a Harvard psychologist. Harwood explained what DISC means:

D — stands for a dominate style, someone who insists on results.

I — means influence, someone who enjoys interaction and is enthusiastic.

S — equates to steadiness and patience, someone who is easygoing.

C — stands for conscientiousness, someone who seeks accuracy

DISC is now a public domain exercise, Harwood said, and if you search the term online, you can discover how to apply it to your team members to best tap into their behaviors.